A Large Buried Felsic Component in the Ancient Martian Crust?

Friday, 19 December 2014
David Baratoux1, Marc Monnereau2, Henri Samuel2, Chloe Michaut3, Mark A Wieczorek3 and Raphael Garcia4, (1)University of Toulouse, Geosciences Environnement Toulouse and Institut Fondamental d'Afrique Noire, Toulouse, Dakar, Senegal, (2)IRAP, Toulouse, France, (3)Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, Paris, France, (4)Institut Supérieur de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace, Toulouse Cedex 04, France
A new range of crustal density values for Mars was calculated from the major element chemistry of Martian meteorites
(3100 - 3700 kg/m3), igneous rocks at Gusev crater (3100 - 3600 kg/m3) and from the surface concentration of Fe, Al, Ca, Si, and K measured by the Gamma-Ray Spectrometer (GRS) (3250 - 3450 kg/m3) (Baratoux et al., 2014). Whereas a dense basaltic crust would be compatible with the moment of inertia factor of Mars, its thickness would exceed 100 km. Such a thick crust is not compatible with the geoid-to-topography ratios in the highlands, and would be unstable and prone to basal flow and/or crustal delamination. An alternative possibility is the existence of a buried light felsic or anorthositic component. A low-density crustal component in the highlands would be consistent with an isostatic compensation associated with a difference in elevation between the two hemispheres of Mars. This alternative is reinforced in the context of the findings of felsic or anorthositic material from visible/NIR spectroscopy (Carter and Poulet, 2013, Wray et al. 2013), and the identification of feldspar-rich rocks at Gale crater (Sautter et al., 2014), whereas felsic lithologies were already identified by Pathfinder. The recently identified outcrops could be either remnants of an ancient anorthositic crust or the result of local igneous differentiation of plutonic bodies. The latter interpretation is currently preferred as early Mars conditions should not be compatible with the formation of a plagioclase floatation crust (Elkins-Tanton et al., 2005). However, in light of the geophysical and petrological constraints discussed above, and given the absence of abundant light material at the surface, we advocate for the existence of a buried anorthositic crustal component that has been largely buried by volcanic material of basaltic composition in the late Noachian or Hesperian eras. Implications regarding the magma ocean scenario for Mars will be discussed.